Title: Witch Eyes
Author: Scott Tracey
Number of Pages: 336 pages
Book Number/Goal: 25/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Amazon Summary (edited for spoileriness): Braden's witch eyes give him an enormous power. A mere look causes a kaleidoscopic explosion of emotions, memories, darkness, and magic. But this rare gift is also his biggest curse.

Compelled to learn about his shadowed past and the family he never knew, Braden is drawn to the city of Belle Dam, where he is soon caught between two feuding witch dynasties. Sworn rivals Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe will use anything--lies, manipulation, illusion, and even murder--to seize control of Braden's powers. To stop an ancient evil from destroying the town, Braden must master his gift despite a series of shocking revelations.

Review: This isn't a book I would have picked up on my own, but it was the first book for [personal profile] rachelmanija's Permanent Floating YA Diversity Book Club, so I decided to give it a go. Aside from the fact that the romance is between two boys, there isn't a single original thing about it. I felt like I was reading an amalgam of a bunch of current supernatural-themed things, including Supernatural, but also Lost Girl and Twilight, which are not terribly original things to begin with. But despite kind of rolling my eyes at everything, I found myself getting drawn in, and as it is unsurprisingly the first book in a series (no one has any love for stand-alone books but me, or at least no writers/publishers), I will definitely be checking out the next one when it's released. If nothing else, it's nice to see a book with gay characters that's not about being gay (as much as I do enjoy those stories, too).
Title: Almost Perfect
Author: Brian Katcher
Number of Pages: 368 pages
Book Number/Goal: 21/50 for 2011
My Rating: 1/5

Jacket Summary: Logan Whitherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. Since then–much to his friends’ dismay–he has been despressed, pessimistic, and obessed with this ex, Brenda.

But things start to look up for Logan when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Tall, unconventionally pretty, and a bit awkward, Sage Hendricks somehow appeals to Logan even at a time when he trusts no one. As Logan learns more about Sage, he realizes that she needs a friend as much as he does, if not more. She has been homeschooled for several years, and her parents have forbidden her to date, but she won’t tell Logan why. The mystery of Sage’s past and the oddities of her personality intrigue Logan, and one day, he acts on his growing attraction and kisses her. Moments later, however, he wishes he hadn’t. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy.

Review: I would never say that people should not write about disprivileged groups they're not a part of, but this book is an example of why such books are often best avoided. Sadly, this book has received a lot of praise and even won awards.

It is written by a straight cis man and it shows. This is not a book about a trans girl; it's a book about how hard it is to be a straight cis guy who falls for a trans girl. This is an intensely hurtful book and one I would never recommend to a trans teen or even a cis queer teen, because the homophobia is just as bad as the transphobia, but unlike the transphobia, left completely unchallenged. In fact, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.

The protagonist's homophobia was relentless, and it's not that it's something uncommon in a teenage boy, in fact quite the opposite. But to have this sort of thing, especially in a first-person narrative, seems to assume that the audience is not going to be queer people, but rather straight people who probably identify at least a little with what the protagonist is saying. It's very alienating to read.

The transphobia is bad, but as I mentioned above, is actually somewhat less than the homophobia, because Logan does learn to mostly see Sage as a woman, even if he still sees her more as someone who will eventually become a real woman when she gets surgery. The homophobia is never challenged. In fact, it's implicitly reinforced by Logan's growing acceptance of Sage, since he is able to stop questioning his sexuality and see himself as really 100% straight and not one of those gross disgusting queers despite his attraction to Sage. I kept hoping one of the other characters would be revealed as queer, but no, there are no queer characters at all in this book.

Then there's the plot itself, which is formulaic, and of course ends up with Sage in the hospital after some guy nearly kills her when he finds out she's trans. I mean, how could we have a book about how hard it is to be a cis straight person who knows a trans person if the trans person wasn't horribly injured in order for the cis person to learn a lesson?

And as if that wasn't enough, the book is filled with all sorts of misinformation about trans people (well, trans women; trans men don't exist in this universe, either). For example, at one point Sage takes out a picture of another trans woman, a friend she's met on the internet. This woman is described as looking like a man in a dress, complete with wig and visible stubble. Sage says this is what trans women look like if they don't transition in their teens.

There are plenty of other problems with the book, including fat hatred and racism (combined in one character!). While Logan's friend Tim is not a stereotypical Asian character (in fact Logan introduces him by saying he's not a stereotypical Asian, bleh), the author couldn't be arsed to do two seconds of research on Google to find out the correct spelling of the name he was using. TokuGOwa is not a Japanese name. Like, at all. At first I hoped it might be just a typo, but it appears more than once. Anyway, while Tim may not be a stereotypical Asian, he does get to be a stereotypical fat kid, face constantly covered in food crumbs until the love of a good (white) woman finally gets him to clean himself up.

This book is bad. The other two books I've read about trans teens, Luna and Parrotfish, both had their own problems, but were miles better than this. Maybe next we can have a book that's actually about a trans character AND written by a trans person. (Luna is by a cis author and is about the sister of a trans girl, while Parrotfish is about a trans guy but is still by a cis author.)
Title: Sea, Swallow Me
Author: Craig Laurance Gidney
Number of Pages: 199 pages
Book Number/Goal: 16/50 for 2011
My Rating: 2.5/5

Jacket Summary: Ancient folklore and modern myth come together in these stories by author Craig Laurance Gidney. Here are found the struggles of a medieval Japanese monk, seduced by a mischievous fairy, and a young slave who finds mystery deep within the briar patch of an antebellum plantation. Gidney offers readers a gay teen obsessed with his patron saint, Lena Horne, and, in the title story, an ailing tourist seeking to escape his troubles at a distant shore, but who never anticipates encountering an African seagod. Rich, poetic, dark and disturbing, these are tales not soon forgotten.

Review: Honestly I wasn't really impressed with this book. There were a few stories I really liked and the rest were just okay. Also, the copy I have is an ARC, so it's got a lot of mistakes, which hopefully were corrected in the final proof (the most annoying one was in the Japanese story, where Amaterasu was misspelled as Amaratsu throughout the story).

Note: My last post here was book 8/50 for 2011. Books 9-15 for me were a reread of the Harry Potter series, so I didn't bother writing reviews. I'm just skipping ahead here.
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([personal profile] torachan Nov. 6th, 2010 02:54 am)
S, so apparently I forgot to crosspost anything here since the beginning of May...? D: I haven't read a ton of books this year, but it says here my last post was books 6-8 and I just posted book 34 on my journal, so it's more than I want to crosspost in whole here. Instead, here's a list of links to the reviews in my journal (along with some basic info) for those interested, and I will try to be good about crossposting in future.

Books 9-34 behind the cut! )
Title: The Ghost Pirates.
Author: William Hope Hodgson.
Number of Pages: 176.
Genre: Horror.
Book Number/Goal: 50 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The House on the Borderland.
Author: William Hope Hodgson.
Number of Pages: 152.
Genre: Horror.
Book Number/Goal: 51 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig'.
Author: William Hope Hodgson.
Number of Pages: 132.
Genre: Horror.
Book Number/Goal: 52 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Red Tree.
Author: Caitlin R. Kiernan.
Number of Pages: 385.
Genre: Horror.
Book Number/Goal: 53 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Sagas of Warrior-Poets.
Author: Anonymous.
Number of Pages: 400.
Genre: Literature, Norse sagas.
Book Number/Goal: 54 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Deerskin.
Author: Robin McKinley.
Number of Pages: 320.
Genre: Fantasy.
Book Number/Goal: 55 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Name of the Rose.
Author: Umberto Eco.
Number of Pages: 502.
Genre: Mystery, historical.
Book Number/Goal: 56 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Arthurian Romances.
Author: Chretien de Troyes.
Number of Pages: 521.
Genre: Literature.
Book Number/Goal: 57 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Thief.
Author: Megan Whalen Turner.
Number of Pages: 280.
Genre: Fantasy.
Book Number/Goal: 58 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.
Title: The Little Stranger.
Author: Sarah Waters.
Number of Pages: 501.
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction.
Book Number/Goal: 36 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Holy Fools.
Author: Joanne Harris.
Number of Pages: 430.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Book Number/Goal: 37 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Five Quarters of the Orange.
Author: Joanne Harris.
Number of Pages: 432.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Book Number/Goal: 38 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Game of Kings.
Author: Dorothy Dunnett.
Number of Pages: 619.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Book Number/Goal: 39 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Taran Wanderer.
Author: Lloyd Alexander.
Number of Pages: 256.
Genre: Fantasy.
Book Number/Goal: 40 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The High King.
Author: Lloyd Alexander.
Number of Pages: 248.
Genre: Fantasy.
Book Number/Goal: 41 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Interpretation of Murder.
Author: Jed Rubenfeld.
Number of Pages: 533.
Genre: Mystery.
Book Number/Goal: 42 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.
My list/goal can be found here.

Title: Fatal Shadows.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 232.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 15 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: A Dangerous Thing.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 248.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 16 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Hell You Say.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 230.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 17 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Death of a Pirate King.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 248.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 18 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Dark Tide.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 304.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 19 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.
Another little batch update. My goal/list is here.

Title: Spindle's End.
Author: Robin McKinley.
Number of Pages: 432.
Genre: Fantasy/fairytale.
Book Number/Goal: 4 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Wide Window.
Author: Lemony Snicket.
Number of Pages: 224.
Genre: Children's.
Book Number/Goal: 5 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Dragon Keeper.
Author: Robin Hobb.
Number of Pages: 553.
Genre: Fantasy.
Book Number/Goal: 6 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Dragon Haven.
Author: Robin Hobb.
Number of Pages: 576.
Genre: Fantasy.
Book Number/Goal: 7 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.
Title: Rainbow Boys, Rainbow High, and Rainbow Road
Author: Alex Sanchez
Number of Pages: ~250 pages each
Book Number/Goal: 6-8/30 for 2010
My Rating: 3.5/5

This trilogy focuses on three boys, Nelson, Kyle, and Jason, following them through their last year of high school and the summer after. Alex Sanchez is really not a great writer. His prose is often clunky and cliched and the characters sound more like someone's idea of how Kids Today talk rather than real kids. But his stories are still engaging and I hope he keeps churning out books about queer kids for years to come because it's really a genre that needs to be bigger.

I wish there wasn't so much casual, unchallenged misogyny and I was uncomfortable with the repeated use of the word tranny when the boys met a trans girl (I think it's entirely plausible that they would use it, but I wish there had been someone to say it's not okay) and it would be nice if there were people other than whites and latinos in his books, overall they're enjoyable. And very quick reads.

In other news, I've lowered my goal for the year from 50 to 30. :( No way am I going to get 50 at this point, but hopefully 30 is still doable.
Title: Keeping You a Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Number of Pages: 250 pages
Book Number/Goal: 70/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Holland is the student body president, on the swim team, a straight-A student, and has a great boyfriend who's also one of her best friends. Everyone thinks her life is perfect. But when she falls in love with Cece, a new girl at school, that all starts to change.

I read another book by Peters earlier this year and liked it a lot, so I was hoping this would be as good and it definitely was. It felt a little less textbooky than Luna, which I think has to do with the fact that the author is writing from personal experience here, where she wasn't with Luna. There's a subplot in this with Holland's stepsister Faith, who's a goth, and that part has the same "let me show you my research" feel to it that all the transgender stuff in Luna did.

Mooch from BookMooch.
Title: The Last Time I Wore a Dress
Author: Daphne Scholinski with Jane Meredith Adams
Number of Pages: 211 pages
Book Number/Goal: 61/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Note: The author now goes by Dylan, but I will use Daphne and female pronouns for the purposes of talking about the book, because that's how the book is written.

Daphne's father beat her. Her mother abandoned her. She was sexually abused many times as a child. She essentially had to raise herself and her sister. When she unsurprisingly acted out, instead of anyone actually caring, she was locked up in a series of mental institutions for most of her teenage years.

Because she was tomboyish, the doctors focused on that, in some cases forcing her to wear makeup every day as part of her treatment. She suffered from depression the entire time she was locked up, was raped several times by male patients, and her parents barely kept in contact with her, yet the doctors continued to focus on the fact that she didn't act like their idea of what a girl should be. She was looked on with suspicion for not having sex with the male patients, as most of the other boys and girls paired up. She was punished for having a female best friend, as they thought the relationship was inappropriate.

This book is really, really depressing to read and basically will make you hate the medical establishment. This quote from the last chapter really sums it up best:

I still wonder why I wasn't treated for my depression, why no one noticed I'd been sexually abused, why the doctors didn't seem to believe that I'd come from a home with physical violence. Why the thing they cared about the most was whether I acted the part of a feminine young lady. The shame is that the effects of depression, sexual abuse, violence: all treatable. But where I stood on the feminine/masculine scale: unchangeable. It's who I am.

Oh, and as if that wasn't bad enough, go to the Amazon reviews and you'll find that all the negative reviews are filled with victim-blaming. Fun!

The book is a really good read, though, and I highly recommend it.
Title: Transgender History
Author: Susan Stryker
Number of Pages: 190 pages
Book Number/Goal: 59/75 for 2009
My Rating: 3.5/5

A better title for the book would be Transgender History in the US, as there's barely any acknowledgement that other countries exist, much less that there might be trans people living there. It's also really short. The last forty pages are notes and such, and the first thirty are defining terms, so only 120 pages are actually devoted to the topic at hand. But for what it is, it's a pretty good read. While focusing primarily on white trans people, it does include PoC fairly often and acknowledges their contributions (which is frankly better than I expected when I saw it was published by the now infamous Seal Press).
Title: Funny Boy
Author: Shyam Selvadurai
Number of Pages: 316 pages
Book Number/Goal: 49/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

When adults say Arjie is "funny", he knows they don't mean it in any way he's familiar with the word. It's not until he's fourteen and falling in love with his best friend that he realizes what they meant and why he's always felt different. Set in Sri Lanka during the '70s and '80s, the book also deals with the racial tensions at the time, as Arjie becomes more and more aware of the growing conflict the older he gets.

This is not a young adult book, but rather a book about children/teens, and while there have definitely been YA books I've enjoyed, this sort of story is really much, much more my thing. The writing is excellent and I am eager to read more by Selvadurai (I have one book here, and at least one more on my wishlist).

Mooch from BookMooch.
Title: The God Box
Author: Alex Sanchez
Number of Pages: 248 pages
Book Number/Goal: 45/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Paul is a Christian teen who has been dating his best friend Angie since middle school, but while he loves her, he feels no attraction towards her. Every night he prays that God will make him attracted to girls and take away his feelings about guys. Then he meets Manuel, who is a Christian and gay and sees nothing contradictory about that. As Paul and Manuel become closer, he starts to question what he's been taught about the evils of homosexuality.

I won't lie. This book is as subtle as a brick and Manuel is unbelievably wise and perfect for a teenager, but I loved it to death. I don't really consider myself a Christian anymore (and I was never this sort of actively-Christian Christian myself), but this is how I grew up and Sanchez portrays the conservative Christian community perfectly. Reading this felt so familiar to me. The Christians in this book aren't parodies; they're real people, and I loved that the story wasn't about choosing between being a Christian and being gay, but about being a gay Christian.

You should also check out [profile] sanguinuity's really excellent and detailed review here.
Title: Southland
Author: Nina Revoyr
Number of Pages: 348 pages
Book Number/Goal: 44/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

When Jackie Ishida's grandfather dies, her aunt finds in his closet a box of cash from the sale of his old store, along with an old will leaving the money to someone they've never heard of. Jackie agrees to help find this guy, only to find out he died. Was murdered, in fact, along with three other boys, in her grandfather's store during the Watts riots in 1965. As she and James Lanier, a cousin of the boy, look into the murders, Jackie learns more than she expected to about her grandfather.

I really loved this book a lot. It's set in LA, but not the Hollywood LA that you usually see in books and movies (it's so rare to see a portrayal of the LA I know and love). The main character is a lesbian, but it's not The Plot, just a fact about her (what? You mean there can be stories about gay people that aren't about being gay???). She's also Japanese-American, but this isn't a story about internment camps (they are mentioned, during some flashbacks in her grandfather's POV, but it's not the point of the story, and boy is that rare).

It's also a really neat story. My one complaint is that it's really tell-y. Like, it could have been cut down by at least a third if the author had just trusted the readers instead of having so much internal exposition about what people were thinking and feeling every step of the way.
Title: Sixty Odd.
Author: Ursula Le Guin.
Number of Pages: 98.
Genre: Poetry.
Book Number/Goal: 49/50 from my list.

Review: Here.

Title: Coming Out At Night.
Author: Rosie Lugosi.
Number of Pages: 28.
Genre: Poetry.
Book Number/Goal: 50/50 from my list.

Review: Here.

Ta da! Finished my list.
Title: China Mountain Zhang.
Author: Maureen F. McHugh.
Number of Pages: 312.
Genre: Speculative fiction, LGBT fiction.
Book Number/Goal: 21/50 from my list.

Review: Here.
Title: Tipping the Velvet.
Author: Sarah Waters.
Number of Pages: 472.
Genre: Historical fiction, LGBT romance.
Book Number/Goal: 19/50 from my list.

Review: Here.
Title: The Vintner's Luck.
Author: Elizabeth Knox.
Number of Pages: 241.
Genre: Speculative fiction, LGBT romance.
Book Number/Goal: 18/50 from my list.

Review: Here.
Title: Parrotfish
Author: Ellen Wittlinger
Number of Pages: 287 pages
Book Number/Goal: 36/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4/5

I wanted to like this book more, because it's the only YA book I know with a transgender protagonist (Julie Ann Peters' Luna was great, but it's more about being the sister of someone who is trans), hell, one of the few books with a transgender protagonist, period. But the writing isn't that great. First-person narration is used as a way to do massive info dumping, and the dialogue is often unnatural-sounding. But I liked the story a lot and I do think it's worth reading for that.

It's interesting in that it's not about the main character's coming to terms with being trans, but rather with everyone else coming to terms with it. At the start of the story, Grady is already out to his family and about to start going to school as a guy. There is some of the above-mentioned info dumping to tell us about his decisions, but it's definitely not the story I was expecting. It really doesn't touch on that aspect much at all. So in a way, like Luna, even though the protagnist is trans himself, the book reads to me as "how to treat trans people when you encounter them" (it's a YA problem novel; of course it has a message).

It's got some problems, though, other than with the writing.

Cut for slight spoilery talk )

Wow, I really went on about the problems. But I still think it's a good book, and I'm glad it's out there, and I think people should check it out if they have an interest in the subject matter. I just wish it were better.


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